"(NPR June 15, 2012) The famous paintings on the walls of caves in Europe mark the beginning of figurative art and a great leap forward for human culture.
But now a novel method of determining the age of some of those cave paintings questions their provenance. Not that they're fakes — only that it might not have been modern humans who made them.
The first European cave paintings are thought to have been made over 30,000 years ago. Most depict animals and hunters. Some of the eeriest are stencils of human hands, apparently made by blowing a spray of pigment over a hand held up to a wall.
But now scientists are suggesting those aren't human hands, at least in some caves in Spain.
Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol in England who used a novel technique to get new dates for some of those paintings, says they're older than people thought, and they may just predate the arrival of humans in Europe.
"What we are saying is that we must entertain the possibility that these paintings were made by Neanderthals," Pike says. Those were humans' closest relatives, but they are not our species..."